Jonathan Storment: Strange Fire and Churches of Christ

aslanI’m looking forward to working on Wineskins together with its featured authors (see list in the righthand column).

Among the featured authors is Jonathan Storment, the pulpit minister for the Highlands congregation in Abilene, who blogs at Part of a Restoration Movement.

I’ve never met Jonathan, that I can recall, but I’ve been reading some of his material — and the guy can flat out write.

Recently, he posted on Cessationism, the theory that miracles ended in the apostolic age. Read the whole post, “Strange Fire and Churches of Christ”, but here are a few samples (lightly edited) —


But I believe I’ve heard the voice of God, and I’ve prayed for people who I believe have been healed, and several who haven’t.  But I didn’t always think this way.

The problem for me started about 9 years ago, when I went to Sri Lanka to do Tsunami relief. We were with a small gathering of Christians there, and a blind woman came up to get prayed for, and God opened her eyes.

I’ve got a bachelors and a graduate degree in Bible, and I immediately said to myself, “I know seven reasons why that can’t happen.”

But as I started to think about it, I realized that the reasons I knew that this couldn’t happen had nothing to do with the Bible. It had everything to do with the philosophy and ideology I was reading the Bible through.

The problem was I had been using the Bible, to be right, to make a living. I was standing on it, but the Bible is telling about a world that we are supposed to inhabit.

And in that world anything can happen.

Because God is in it. …

I was talking to an Anglican priest friend last week about this, and his answer was so good I think it might be helpful here.

He said something like, the main problem really isn’t what we think it is. The real problem is that we’ve lost our imagination.

There is a fundamental difference between a Catholic Christian’s imagination and a Protestant Christian’s imagination.  In Catholicism, the whole world in enchanted, God is closer than we are to ourselves, and the entire Creation is dripping with the Glory of God.

So back to us Protestants, both the Charismatics and the Cessationists are basically talking with the same limited imagination. We believe that either God punches a whole in the roof of the world and tinkers in from time to time in order to heal our Aunt’s cancer or give me a better parking space … or we believe that He doesn’t do that.

But both are operating from a posture that fundamentally believes God is somewhere else.

This is why we use language like, “And then God showed up.” As if there are places in the world where God wasn’t!

And don’t think for a second I’m trying to ignore the Bible. I’m just trying to start reading it better. Think about how the Psalms talk about Creation, the mountains clap for joy, and the rivers sing!

According to the Bible the whole earth is enchanted! …

Am I a Charismatic or a Cessationist? Neither. Because I think both of those stories are too small to contain God.

I believe Aslan is on the move.

The Fire of God is real, the world is ablaze with it.

And when Christians are unable to see that, I think that’s strange.


You will also enjoy Jonathan’s “God is For Love: A Better Conversation for Homosexuality & the Church.”

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Holy Spirit and Providence, That Which Is Perfect. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Jonathan Storment: Strange Fire and Churches of Christ

  1. Grizz says:

    What does “lightly edited” mean?

  2. Robert Harry says:

    We have seen strange stuff from God through prayer. It really comes down to the fact that an infinite God, in power, wisdom and existence can do what he pleases to whom he chooses.

    The Gospel for India has reported the power of miracles in areas of that India where God and Jesus have never been preached. Kind of Apostolic.

  3. Thanks Jonathan and was greatly encouraged by what you wrote. My first post was yesterday and I should have pointed out then that I don’t go to a Church of Christ anymore though I did back in the ’80’s when I was with Crossroads Church of Christ in Gainesville, FL. I know, the controversial one. I was there for 4 years and have visited CofC numerous times and regularly for almost a year one not far from my home in north FL.

    Now I go to Calvary Chapel and I’m there since they teach the books of the Bible expositionally in a systematic way and still “Charismatic.” I have always thought if I move from Gainesville and there is a good progressive Church of Christ in my area I’d go to it. And if that is considered “liberal” that’s fine though I’m not a liberal.

    I remember talking to a brother in the International CoC about Calvary Chapel and I said we are “a Charismatic church, but a very conservative Charismatic church” to which he replied, “that is a contradiction in terms.” I laughed about that and told him how we believe the gifts (miraculous ones) are for today and we teach expositionally the books of the Bible. I think he understood what I mean (I don’t have much contact with the ICOC as anyone can imagine why).

    I’m not sure if this is well known but the more progressive CofC, Calvary Chapels, and independent/Community Churches have more in common than we realize. I hope in future years we all can work more closely together.

    I’m excited to hear about God opening the eyes of the blind. As far as I know in the scriptures that did not happen until Jesus arrived on the scene. Miracles, yes, but not that one.

    I could say more about God’s healing power but in the USA the church in general seems anemic and I’m not talking about CofC. I mean in many ways the Charismatic movement is so counterfeited with strange fire…just put in strange fire, weird manifestations on youtube and you’d know what I mean. David Wilkerson spoke openly and very strongly about this. And God will not bless that and so it seems many in the Charismatic movement is grieving the Holy Spirit and quenching the power of God. I hope this doesn’t sound too negative but it’s true.

    Well take care and hope this letter was confusing since I bounced around a bit.

  4. ah man, where’s the edit button. LOL

  5. Skip says:

    I have a similar background to you. Was baptized at Crossroads in the 70’s. Moved around between several Churches of Christ as I moved to different schools or jobs. Got into the ICOC for a few years to bail out when the “movement” started going really far south. I returned to the Church of Christ only to encounter a group that was dry as a potato chip and shrunk by about 50% because of church politics. Then joined up with Calvary Chapel in Virginia and was amazed at how much better they knew the whole Bible than any Church of Christ preacher I ever heard. They aren’t New Testament Christians, they are whole Bible Christians. This was an eye-opener for me.
    The first century Christians weren’t converted with a new Testament, they were converted from the Old Testament. So why, oh why, did the CoC decide to pretty much dismiss the OT and focus only on the NT. (I am not advocating obeying OT laws but seeing who God is in the whole Bible). In my relocation from Virginia to Georgia I couldn’t find a Calvary Chapel church, the local CoC was dead, so my family found a Christian church (cousins of the CoC). They have grown to about 7,000 and are dramatically growing still because of 1) Lots of faith, 2) Great Bible teaching, 3) Engaging all members as much as possible, 4) Humble leaders.
    I say all of this to simply say that a CoC insider cannot know what is broken and how to fix it until they step outside the systemic mindset and look at what successful Churches are doing differently around the world.

  6. josh says:

    I just listened to an interview with Ian Morgan Cron (the Anglican Priest Jonathan mentions) where he spoke about this subject. The interview was done by Luke Norsworthy in his Newsworthy with Norsworthy podcast.

  7. Jay Guin says:

    Grizz — “lightly edited” means “typos fixed”

  8. Skip, that is very similar to my story. You prolly know Denny S. who was the youth minister at Crossroads in the late 70’s. He was already gone by the time I was there but I would have been in his high school class that he taught. Crossroads had some good but the leaven of unbalanced discipleship and pride brought it down…along with Boston CoC trying to take it over which is far from scriptural.

    Let Crossroads be a teachable moment. I remember hearing from the pulpit a few times Chuck would say…”no other congregation since the first century has done what this congregation has done.” Hearing that would make me cringe. Yet before I left I learned of the Richland Hills CoC in TX…The Hills church today. And they were growing more than Crossroads (I speaking of time frame of the 1980’s). And with many other reasons I had to leave. But saying that I’m still mindful that was a great congregation despite the pride and control factor…I usually avoided the more controlling people. You could do that then. God protected me.

    After joining the Army and out of Gainesville I was with Western Hills Christian Church for almost 3 years. And yes, I was with a Church of Christ before WHCC. It was one of the better ones for that area of Oklahoma. Very anti-Crossroads but they had their reasons for which I agreed to a point. But when I brought a visitor with me, an agnostic, they harped on instrumental music and how it was unscriptural. My friend didn’t know what to think of it. We left before it was all over and he actually went to church with me at Western Hills and nine months later came to faith in Christ and was baptized.

    As far as today it SEEMS the zealots among Churches of Christ are so legalistic they are strangling the Churches of Christ to a slow death. Not all CofC, like The Hills for example, they are not strangling them.

    Is that a right assessment, that the zealots are strangling the CofC. I don’t like saying that. And I was pretty conservative except with the music issue. I preferred acapella and music should not overtake the vocal music. To this day I still like acapella and always will. But by CofC standard way of viewing things I would be considered a liberal and would join a church that is considered liberal. Whatta 180 from my early 20 years!

    And what’s ironic I go to a “Charismatic” church. A very conservative Charismatic church, one that you don’t hear anyone speaking in tongues unless there is an interpreter.

    Which again brings me back to what I said in another letter. The Christian Churches, independent Bible churches, Calvary Chapel, many of the Community Churches and some independent Baptist Churches can be of good help to CofC. We have a lot in common.

    And to put it this way it seems the CofC are so torn up over issues brought about by SO MUCH topical teaching over the centuries what they need is 99% expositional teaching and preaching the books of the Bible—-line upon line, precept upon precept, context upon context. Taking their time, no rushing through the Bible. ALL of the Bible like you said, not only the NT but the NT takes precedents over the OT. Like you said, I got what you were saying.

    Is expositional teaching the only way to teach? NO! But when a congregation is imploding from so much issues a man of God who is able to teach needs to lay aside those issues and over a period of years just teach expositionally through the whole Bible and lay those issues at the cross. And I say that on a congregational level. And in the same way for a segment of churches, a movement of churches need to do the same thing. IF not what will happen. I’m glad the progressive CofC are doing good and that says a lot for the freedom we have in Christ. Don’t let anyone take that from you.

  9. Tony says:

    It really concerns me to see people who are expected to know scripture well enough to teach truth, can fail so miserably at it. There isn’t a believer in the world who would argue against the idea that God can do anything He wants to do, at any time, and in any way He deems fit. The woman in Sri Lanka; you mention nothing that would ascertain that she was blind before the prayer for her. One, only one regained his sight in the NT outside of Jesus’ healings, and it was Saul after Jesus blinded him. All others healed of blindness were in the gospels and healed by Jesus. And only Saul in Acts. Why is there no other biblical reference to anyone being healed of blindness outside of Jesus Himself healing blindness and Ananias? How can you be so reckless as to suggest she was healed of blindness. And for what purpose? Why do you not treat Jesus’ acts of healing as proof of His claim to be God and for that purpose, as well as all of His other healings? Why are so many people who believe in God still blind after praying for healing? Do you think perhaps that they are not “faithful enough” to receive God’s grace? Miracles were to confirm God’s Word, in the OT and the NT. Indiscriminate healings depart from biblical teaching.

  10. Skip says:

    Tony, so your contention is it is impossible for miracles to occur today, or simply the blind can’t miraculously see today?

Comments are closed.